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Portland, OR
USA

I exist to help dads learn to communicate and engage with their young adult daughters.  I provide resources from my vast amounts of research and experience with dads and daughters, and this is the place where you'll find the tools you need to become the hero you've always wanted to be.

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I Don't Speak "Car"

Michelle Watson

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I took my car to a local garage the other day because it had been making a strange squeaking noise when I stepped on the brakes. My first thought was that I needed new shocks, but because I literally have no knowledge of cars, I took it to an expert so he could listen to the noise and diagnose the problem.

Truthfully, I hate dealing with car problems. It’s not exactly my area of expertise so I always feel a bit out of my element with things like this. Yet that’s why I give myself bonus points for courageously stepping up to the plate despite my discomfort.

So on this particular day as I walked into the garage, I sought to describe the unusual noise to the shop owner. However, he didn’t seem to understand what I was trying to explain so he suggested that we drive around the block where we could both listen for the problematic sound. I was confident that I’d be validated for what I’d been hearing.

But to no avail (which seems to be the way it goes, right?!).

It was then that the guy strongly (and in a way that I felt was more bold than the conversation merited) communicated to me that he couldn’t help me unless I gave him more specific information at a later date to let him know exactly what I was hearing.

I assure you that I fully comprehended his need for more specific data in order to identify the problem, but that wasn’t really the hardest part for me. It was that he talked down to me with a belittling and demeaning tone, making me feel like I was an idiot for not knowing how to exactly explain my dilemma to him.

Can I be honest and say that this is one of the things that sometimes doesn’t make sense to me about men. I am authentically and respectfully asking if you could shed some light on this for me. I don’t quite understand why there seems to be a need to talk louder and stronger in order to make a point when the person being talked to clearly isn’t tracking with the content.

As I discovered with this guy (the one whose bedside manner was obviously better suited to inanimate objects than humans), he seemed to enjoy powerfully communicating his position while implying that if I didn’t speak “car” then I needn’t return until I had mastered this foreign language since that’s all that he spoke.

The reality is that I love learning new things. In fact, I feel empowered when I walk into areas of incompetence because I’m presented with an opportunity to grow as a result of facing my fears while expanding my knowledge base. And I am enthusiastically willing to learn something new if someone will take the time to explain things to me…with kindness and respect.

The problem I had during this interaction was that he displayed neither of these qualities. And I really didn’t have any other words in my vocabulary to describe the noise other than what I told him. I wasn’t trying to be difficult or sound stupid. I gave him the best explanation I had.

But to him it wasn’t good enough.

He told me that if I came back, two things needed to happen:

1. I had to be way more specific with a better way of letting him know what the problem was, or...
2. It would need to get a lot worse before I actually had a legitimate problem.

I couldn’t quite determine in that moment whether I felt more disrespected, shamed, or angry. And though I feared that I would incite his wrath if I asked any other inane questions or didn’t say things in a way that he respected or understood (since he was clearly escalating in intensity), I decided that I simply had to speak up. I was literally coaching myself, giving myself a pep talk, because I knew that if I didn’t say something, I would disrespect myself.

So I mustered up my courage, looked at him square in his eyes, and met his intensity with these words:

 

I’m not an idiot. I just don’t speak car! As a matter of fact, I have letters after my name, letters which would prove to some that I am not stupid and that I can actually describe complex scenarios in my respective field. We just have different areas of expertise. I did explain this to you the best I could. You and I just speak different languages and I gave you what I have.”

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But I wasn’t finished.

I continued by telling him about the Mars/Venus thing and chose to assert myself even though I was in his world where he held the power. Despite feeling a bit bullied, I didn’t want to leave knowing I hadn’t used my voice. So despite lacking confidence while I spoke, I was happy that he backed down a little bit once I told him that “car” wasn’t my native tongue. It was then that the thought occurred to me that he was treating me with less dignity and honor than the brakes he installs on VW’s.

Dads, I share this story to remind you that, like me, your daughters don’t speak “car.”

It’s important to remember that she has knowledge about things that you don’t, and vice versa. Don’t put her down for not pacing with you fast enough or failing to track with topics that aren’t her forte. If you want to understand what she is saying then you’ll have to come her way (since you’re the adult and as her dad, the leadership role falls to you) because even on the best of days, she might not have any better words than what comes out of her mouth to explain to you what’s squeaking, creaking, or breaking inside her.

Give her the benefit of the doubt that she’s doing the best she can to explain, in her own words, the complexity of her world.

If you let kindness, patience, and gentleness be your guide, they will go a long way towards letting her know that you value, respect, and honor her. And the way you treat her will not only set the foundation for how she respects herself, but it will serve as a model for the way she interacts with others and expects to be treated in return.

After all, when you really think about it, it’s less about getting the car fixed and more about the journey that you take together in the process of getting it fixed, don’t you think?

So why not make it your goal today to take a step toward learning to speak your daughter’s native language (in her own unique dialect). Once you’ve done that, she’ll be more open to learning to speak “car” with you as her teacher. I’d call that a win-win, wouldn’t you?

Dad, Here's Your Valentine's Month Challenge

Michelle Watson

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You may think that you misread my blog title because I used the word month instead of day. But I assure you that you’re seeing things correctly. Let me tell you why.

For many men, Valentine’s Day is that one day each year when they know that if they forget the card, candy, flowers, or the fancy dinner, they’ll be in the doghouse. So the motivation sometimes is more about not getting in trouble than it is on reaching her heart.

Here’s the deal: The underlying desire for most women is that we just want to know that we’re loved and valued and treasured more than one day a year, especially when it feels a bit forced since it’s a manufactured holiday.

So if you, as a dad to your daughter, want to be the hero that she needs you to be, then on this first day of February it’s time to capitalize on this opportunity to show her love for an entire month, not just a day.

Here’s a not-very-hidden Venusian secret: We women love love. And even for those who may be less outwardly demonstrative when it comes to emotional expression, inside the heart of every girl and woman is a God-given desire to be pursued and cherished, adored and known.

And if you as a dad miss the opportunity to pursue your daughter’s heart at any point, she’ll go looking for love elsewhere because this is a legitimate need, not just a want.

Let me back up my statement with an illustration.

As you probably know, Hallmark has a corner on the market this time of year when it comes to cards. In fact, did you know that approximately 150 million Valentine's Day cards are exchanged annually, making it the second most popular card-sending holiday after Christmas?

Thus, it comes as no surprise that they have expanded their efforts beyond sentimental words on the page and are now referred to as “the Hallmark movie empire.”

Since stats are a powerful way to underscore a point, here are some confirming facts regarding their nationwide domination in the area of romantic cinematic expression:

  • In 2010 there were 6 original Hallmark holiday movies

  • In 2014, there were 12

  • In 2015, the network added 21 new movies to their lineup

  • In 2017, they produced 33 more

  • And in June of 2018, they announced that they were debuting 90 additional new movies that now span all year long!

 
What this says to me is simply this:   If someone isn’t experiencing true love in their lives (which may or may not include heartfelt romance), she—or he--will be drawn to watching someone else live out their romantic story.

What this says to me is simply this: If someone isn’t experiencing true love in their lives (which may or may not include heartfelt romance), she—or he--will be drawn to watching someone else live out their romantic story.

 

And even though every single Hallmark storyline is predictable, cheesy, unrealistic, anticipated, scripted, and improbable, the draw we have to the fantasy becomes a substitute for reality, particularly when it’s non-existent.

So Dad, here’s where you get to shine. Become the Prince Charming in your daughter’s romantic story. Whether she has a special someone or not, you can let her know every single day during this entire month of February that she is your treasure.

Start today and make a commitment to communicate love to her daily for the next 28 days. And rest assured that some days will be more significant in terms of your time, money, and energy, yet by mixing it up it will add strength to the impact of your loving expressions.

Here are some practical ideas to get you started:

  • Text her an affirming message (to highlight something you’ve not typically highlighted before, such as a character quality that you admire in this season of her life)

  • Write a note and send it via snail mail so she sees your loving words in your own handwriting (and if she’s like me, she’ll save it forever)

  • Call her to tell her why you thought of her today (leaving a voicemail message is a great idea so she can replay it again and again)

  • FaceTime her and ask questions about her day, her feelings, her fears, and her dreams (make it your goal to get her to talk while you listen)

  • Send her flowers (and make sure to send a card that tells her why she’s amazing in your eyes)

  • Buy her a gift or two (tangible expressions of your love---where you put your money where your mouth is--- it will remind her that she’s your treasure for days and months to come)

  • Stop by her workplace or school and leave a treat with a note (which I guarantee will be shown to all of her friends and they’ll wish you were their dad!)

  • Take her out to breakfast, lunch or dinner (let her choose the place…and then between the time you set up the date and the time you spend together, it will bring joy to her heart as she looks forward to time with you)

So there you have it, dad: your February challenge

I can hardly wait to hear how you, as dialed-in dads, give Hallmark a run for their money this year by showing who the real hero is in your daughter’s story.

(p.s. Write and tell me how it goes so I can celebrate with you!)

Closing the Dream Gap

Michelle Watson

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Over the past couple of years a new term has emerged called the ‘Dream Gap.’ You may have already heard of it, but for me this is something I just learned about recently. And because it’s rocking my world, I wanted to bring it to your attention, Dads.

Let’s start with the historical context:

In 2017 researchers from NYU, Princeton, and the University of Illinois collaborated to present findings from their ground-breaking research, revealing that by the age of five, girls quit dreaming and stop believing they can be anything they want to be or do anything they set their minds to. By contrast, boys in this age range are not experiencing the same things.

They also reported that by the age of six, girls stop associating brilliance with their gender and start avoiding activities that require what they perceive to be high levels of intelligence. Further, the more heart-breaking reality is that when these gender stereotypes regarding a lack of intellectual ability in females take root early, they are believed to have life-long negative impacts on their interests, choices, and career paths.

In other words, when girls decline involvement in activities they believe are reserved only for those who are “really, really smart,” they tend to make choices not to engage in activities where they might have otherwise flourished had they tried. And these restrictive beliefs block young girls and women from pursuing their aspirations, which researchers believe correlates to women being underrepresented in fields that value genius, such as philosophy or physics.

[You can read more about these findings at: https://bit.ly/2RWRpky]

One mom’s story:

In her blog, “Life with my Littles,” Chelsea Johnson shares her personal story around this theme: 

“I first heard about the Dream Gap back in May at Barbie headquarters, and it hit me hard. My daughter just turned four, and right now, she is such a bright, shining light in our family. She loves imagining who she can become and her dream is to become a worker (a construction worker) and a veterinarian (we’re lucky Barbie makes a vet doll and a builder doll!). One day she wants to build her own veterinary clinic. To her, anything is possible, and I want her to always believe that she can be or do anything she wants.

When I heard about the Dream Gap and what research has shown, I was terrified for her. I have friends with daughters between five and seven, and they’ve casually said things to me that have shown me that this gap is real in their daughter’s lives. I don’t want my daughter, or any other girl, to doubt her potential or to think that just because she’s a girl she can’t become who she wants to. Even if you don’t have a daughter, I’m sure you can relate to this feeling.

Yes, I can relate to this feeling because this is my story:

Sometimes people assume that I’m intelligent simply because I have letters after my name. Yet regardless of what people tell me, here is my standard response every single time someone makes a comment about my academic accomplishments: “I’m not that smart…I just work hard.”

 
Until reading this research, I hadn’t considered that I’m actually perfectly positioned inside this stereotypical norm group, mostly because of my own self-deprecating beliefs. Even more, I assumed that I would be convinced I was smart   enough   after graduating with my doctorate, which included doing my own research, then writing and defending my dissertation.

Until reading this research, I hadn’t considered that I’m actually perfectly positioned inside this stereotypical norm group, mostly because of my own self-deprecating beliefs. Even more, I assumed that I would be convinced I was smart enough after graduating with my doctorate, which included doing my own research, then writing and defending my dissertation.

 

But unfortunately, I wouldn’t say that there has been a positive shift in this area in the last decade. So here I am as an educated woman who still doesn’t fully believe that I have enough intellect to be considered truly intelligent.

The crazy thing is that I don’t even know what enough would look like if I had it. I just know that I don’t believe I have as much as I possibly could have.

Did you notice how many times I used the word enough? I assure you that I don’t believe I’m dumb. In fact, I know I have smarts. It’s more that I don’t think I’m smart enough.

You’re probably a step ahead of me and can see that this statement elicits a follow-up question: Smart enough for what or smart enough in comparison to whom? Do you see how relative all of this is and how nebulous these concepts are? What does ‘enough’ even mean in practical terms?

I have an answer.

I was never as smart as Stephanie Weirson, a girl who was in my class from grade school through high school. And it seemed that every time we had a test, she finished long before I was even to the half way point. Solidifying her elevated position in my mind, she was always at the top of the leader board when our grades came out. So Ms. Weirson became my internalized standard against which I measured myself and she was always ahead of me because somehow I linked speed of responses to IQ. Yet now that I say it out loud, I realize how absurd that is!

I have honestly never said any of this out loud quite like this…until now. So here I am admitting that somewhere along the way I adopted a skewed “grid for smartness” and it has gone unchallenged and uncontested…until now.

I’m reluctant to admit this, but the reality is that I self-deprecate as much as the next woman even though, on the outside, no one would guess that I do.

As a result, I’ve been believing a lie that hasn’t been broken because it’s never been spoken.

Defining the ‘Dream Gap’ in more detail:

In response to the study I mentioned at the start of this blog, Mattel launched a global campaign just three months ago called the ‘Dream Gap Project.’ Their goal is to close the gap that stands between girls and their full potential through raising awareness of gender biases and stereotypes that are placed on them at a young age, reinforced primarily by the media and from subtle messages by adults. Thus, they are encouraging girls to counter their self-limiting beliefs by dreaming for more while reaching for the stars.

On their website, Mattel boldly states their motivation behind this initiative:

“The Dream Gap is a crisis not only because it robs girls of the ability to value themselves in an essential context. Dreaming is the key to a future in which more than 80 percent of jobs are STEM-related [Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math], and so we are all robbed. Simply put, dreaming, if we define that term as imagining new possibilities, exploring new worlds and thinking new thoughts, is what makes innovation and new breakthroughs possible.”

In this short video [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YpLT8bEQ78A], a group of adorable young girls collectively use their voices to define the ‘Dream Gap’ in this way:

 
“Starting at age five, girls stop believing they can be presidents, scientists, astronauts, big thinkers, engineers, CEOs, and the list goes on. Why? Because what else are we going to believe when we are three times less likely to be given a science-related toy…and when our parents are twice as likely to Google ‘Is my son gifted?’ than ‘Is my daughter gifted?’ That’s not cool.”

“Starting at age five, girls stop believing they can be presidents, scientists, astronauts, big thinkers, engineers, CEOs, and the list goes on. Why? Because what else are we going to believe when we are three times less likely to be given a science-related toy…and when our parents are twice as likely to Google ‘Is my son gifted?’ than ‘Is my daughter gifted?’ That’s not cool.”

 

Keeping true to their word to increase purposeful dreaming in girls through imaginative play, Mattel recently announced their Girl of the Year as Luciana Vega, whom they describe as a creative, confident 11-year old girl and aspiring astronaut who dreams of being the first person to go to Mars!”

I am excited that empowered role models are being shown to young girls that invite them to think outside of a stereotypical box as they hold dolls that embody intelligence and strength. This sentiment is reinforced by the little girls in the above-mentioned video as they say:

“We need to see brilliant women being brilliant. And see how they got to where they there. To imagine ourselves doing what they do. But we can’t do it alone. Mom, dads, brothers, bosses, we need all of you to help. We need to close the dream gap. It’s up to all of us.”

How a Dad Can Help Close the ‘Dream Gap’:

You may feel like there’s very little you can do to override the powerful undertow of our cultural tide that comes against your daughter with negative messages that attack the very qualities that you seek to see displayed in her. You may believe your efforts are futile to successfully celebrate your daughter’s creativity, brilliance, optimism, vision, and passion when she isn’t always met with the same enthusiasm and support outside of your home.

As a dad you have the privilege of standing in the gap for your daughter so she can hear your affirming voice above the rest. You get to speak life into her spirit and applaud her uniqueness by supporting her dreams and goals (even if they’re different than the dreams and goals you have for her.)

This is where we as girls and women need YOU, our dads, to:

  1. Challenge us to face our fears

  2. Let us know that it’s okay to be afraid through this process of honing our vision

  3. Remind us that in your eyes we’re a winner when we give our best, even if we don’t win first prize

  4. Believe that we’re enough when we don’t believe that we are

  5. Run alongside us while we’re learning to dream beyond our natural limitations

  6. Coach us with wisdom about the fact that character is proven when we get back up after we fall

  7. Cheer us on with your unwavering support as you speak life-breathing words into us

  8. Repeat the truth that success is in the journey, not just in the outcome

  9. Tell us that you’re proud of us and love us no matter what

And, Dad, if you want one more idea to help your daughter close the dream gap, I encourage you to invite her to write a list of TEN OUTRAGEOUS THINGS SHE WISHES SHE HAD THE NERVE TO DO. Then have her date and sign it.

A decade ago I wrote out my list of ten outrageous things and one of them was “to write a book.” It seemed like a crazy impossibility at the time, but then in 2014 my first book was released. So I speak from personal experience when I say: Dream it and do it!

For extra dad points, you can create your own list, modeling to your daughter that you’re never too old to set new goals and think forward in expanding normal limits. This list can also serve as a prayer guide as you agree with God to support your daughter to live beyond her natural limits as she is released into his supernatural calling on her life!

Dad, you can help to close the dream gap today by standing in the gap with your daughter.

Start the Year With Your Own "Vehicle Inspection"

Michelle Watson

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Back in my 20’s I was radical about goal setting. So much so that twice a year I would join my friend Lynn as we’d head to places like Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood or to a cottage along the Washington Coast where we’d set individual six-month goals. Then we’d reconvene bi-annually to revisit and update those goals. It was a tradition for many years and I loved it.

 

Now before you’re too impressed with my resolve back in those days, I have to admit that I can’t remember the last time I’ve done anything similar. Maybe it’s because I don’t have an accountability partner now or maybe it’s because I’m a bit too lazy. Truthfully, it’s probably a combination of the two.

 

But what if you and I joined forces and we each did some self reflection right now while clarifying our intentions for 2019. 

 

One of the best things about starting a new year is that we have an opportunity to say goodbye to the last 365 and look forward to what’s ahead. There really is something powerful about having a built-in marker for reflection so that we don’t end up living out the truth of Zig Ziglar’s infamous words, “if you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”

 

Let’s be honest. The whole process of looking inward and casting a vision for the future takes discipline and courage. And though it’s never easy to slow down and re-evaluate, it’s vital if we want to make sure that our priorities (e.g., the things that take up our time) line up with our values.

 

All of this talk about goal-setting and strategizing has me thinking that sometimes we spend more time taking care of our cars than we do our relationships. And for many of us, we think that it’s vitally important to stay on track with regular vehicle inspections and maintenance to ensure that our cars are running their best, but when it comes to “looking under the hood” of our relationships, the same kind of precision doesn’t happen as easily…or at all.

 

In view of that reality, Dad, I want to offer a way for you to evaluate yourself where you will be lifting the hood of your “car” to check the wiring in order ensure optimum workability and performance.

 
 

 

Think of this self-assessment tool as your 50,000-mile vehicle inspection report as you begin this new year. It will help you gauge where you’re at now while providing a road map to guide you in reaching your fathering goals.

And though many dads have told me they’re not big into writing down their objectives as a father, I’ve discovered that those ideals are actually tucked deep within and clearer than many of them have realized. That’s where I believe this self-assessment tool will serve as a proactive resource to support your personal growth because it will help you clarify your vision.

Let me add that I’ve absolutely loved hearing from dads in The Abba Project (the group I lead for dads of daughters ages 13 to 30) who tell me that they made a copy of this Dialed-In Dad Checklist and put it in a prominent place to remind them of what they need to focus on.

Let’s get practical now.

After you take the Dialed-In Dad Self-Test and see items that are not a part of your daily or weekly interactions with your daughter, write two or three specific things on a note card or set them as a reminder on your phone so that you’re clear about what you are going to do starting today that will launch you on your journey toward being increasingly tuned-in to your daughter.

There’s no need to go down a path of guilt or shame for things you’ve done wrong in the past, and there’s no better time than the present to begin changing the past. You have today and every day from here on out to make up for lost time.

Here’s the bottom line: Being intentional makes a big difference.

Start the year strong by committing to go the distance as you proactively pursue your daughter’s heart daily. That said, Dads, it’s time to start your “engines!”

 

Click here for the Dialed-in Dad Checklist

Scents and Sensibility: How a Dad Can Make a Forever Investment in His Daughters Life

Michelle Watson

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Per·fume [pərˌfyo͞om] · a fragrant liquid typically made from essential oils extracted from flowers and spices, used to impart a pleasant smell to one's body or clothes.
 
Day [dā/] · a period of twenty-four hours as a unit of time; a particular period of the past, an era.
 
Per·fume Day [pərˌfyo͞om · dā/] · one of Dr. Michelle’s favorite days of the year when her dad extravagantly spoils her by investing in the perfume of her choice, all with the goal of creating:

  1. a forever memory

  2. a wonderful sensory experience that that lingers throughout the year while serving as a reminder of her dad’s love for her every time she wears it.

I imagine by now that the majority of you have heard me talk about my annual adventure with my dad that we affectionately call “Perfume Day.” 
 
(If, by chance, you haven’t read about it in my book, “Dad, Here’s What I Really Need from You: A Guide for Connecting with Your Daughter’s Heart” [http://amzn.to/1N3tp0W] or listened to the story in my book [on Audible at https://adbl.co/2MqSuiW] or heard my interview with my dad on The Dad Whisperer [https://bit.ly/2UqfEq0], I’m excited to share more about it with you today so that you can invest in your daughter’s life in a powerful way with one aromatic experience!)
 
It’s worth noting that my dad had absolutely no template of how to be a father. His dad wasn’t present for much of his life, and when he actually was home, he was often in a drunken stupor with unbridled anger. When my dad was a young adult, his father lived in a railroad boxcar, homeless and alone, suffering from the devastating effects of alcoholism.

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Then years later when my dad was in his late 30’s, he attended a conference where the men were given a challenge. In his own words my dad says, “we men were asked to think about ways we could be special to our kids, and since I had daughters I thought that perfume might be a good thing.”
 
And with that, Perfume Day was born.
 
This year my challenge to you as dads is this: why not approach the topic of creating a lasting memory with your daughter from a creative angle that involves a sensory and fragrant interaction between the two of you. Let me share why this one act will go a long way to reaching her heart.
 
First, did you know that some experts say that our sense of smell is the strongest of our five senses? Not only that, but olfactory nerves activate the primitive part of our brain that stays in our long-term memory and corresponds to motivation and emotion. This intricate wiring in our noses means that a certain scent can activate a powerful memory because it often outlasts other memories that are carried by our other four senses.
 
Dad Translation: By creating an experience with your daughter now that revolves around choosing her favorite perfume, you are giving her a sensory memory that will last a lifetime. The perfume itself will provide a tangible reminder of your love for her because of the way that actual scent will be attached to her memory networks for the rest of her life. From this day forward, every time she smells that scent, it will remind her of you.
 
Talk about a deposit with dividends that exceed the investment!
 
Second, this idea of perfume being a memory that can last a lifetime is rooted in history, going back a lot farther than my dad (who has been doing this at Christmas with me for 27 years now!).
 
Whether or not you’re a Bible reader, I’m hopeful that you’ll find this story relevant in light of this theme.
 
Just before Jesus’ death, his friend Mary poured expensive perfume on his feet, an action that was met with ridicule by some of the men who watched it happen. One in particular noted that it was a waste since the money could have been given to the poor.
 
Jesus came to Mary’s defense and told them to “leave her alone” while highlighting that she actually was preparing him for his upcoming burial. He told them that the poor would always be with them, but He wouldn’t. Mary seemed to understand something deeper than those around her and she communicated with her actions that the One she loved was worth this kind of costly investment. 
 
I guess you could say that “Perfume Day” had it’s beginning between a woman and her Savior.

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Author Ken Gire says it this way:
 
We all grow up and grow out of our childlike enthusiasms. But maybe something of the little girl in Mary never did. And maybe one of the reasons she  meant so much to  Jesus is because sitting at his feet and anointing Him with perfume came as naturally as children throwing their arms around their daddy’s legs and showering Him with hugs and kisses.
 
Mary’s response to her Friend tells me that He had previously invested well in her, which resulted in her enthusiastic response back to Him out of a relational overflow.
 
Dad, if you’ve never done it before, I encourage you to take the step this year to make Perfume Day a new tradition with your daughter.
 
(And if you’re like some of the men I’ve spoken to who say that their daughter “isn’t into perfume,” perhaps you’ll create a different kind of forever memory by together making a plate or bowl at a “Make-Your-Own-Pottery” store. I realize that her sense of smell won’t necessarily be activated, but it’s still a great alternative as she’ll have that piece for the rest of her life as a reminder of you).
 
I wish each of you the best ending to 2018 and look forward to staying connected in 2019 as I continue bringing practical action tools that you can add your fathering toolbox.
 
But before I go, here’s a couple of pictures from Perfume Day with my dad. I trust you’ll enjoy this walk down memory lane as I’m sure it will inspire laughter at my expense once you see some of my hairstyles!

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“Thanks Dad for creating forever memories with me and letting me know I’m worth your investment. I love you, Michelle”

10 Reasons I Thank God He Made Fathers

Michelle Watson

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I realize that we’re a week past Thanksgiving, but the idea of giving thanks is still on my heart. So I figured it was a fitting time to let you dads hear about why I’m thankful that God made you.

First, the backstory. Having come alongside girls and young women now for the past four decades, I can undoubtedly say that a father is one, if not the most important person in her life.
 

Yes, moms are essential and necessary and important on more levels than I can count, but every woman with a dialed-in dad will confirm that he has been vital to developing her core sense of identity. It’s her relationship with her father that has helped to build her self esteem and self worth. Even more, she will tell you that the foundation that her dad laid (or didn’t lay) has significantly impacted how she still views herself today.

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Now back to you as dads. I want you to know what I honestly think and believe about you. Plain and clear. Straight to the point. 
 
This is why you really matter and why your presence makes a difference in the lives of your daughters:

  1. You are the one whose opinion matters most. 

  2. Your attention communicates more per square inch than you could ever imagine.
    (I’m not sure why it does, but it just does. You’ll have to believe me on that one!)

  3. When you show up, it carries more relational weight than most anyone else.

  4. When you provide for her needs, she settles into knowing she’ll truly be okay.

  5. When you look at her with love in your eyes, you are placing a deposit into her heart so deep that she will hold it there long afterwards.

  6. Your smile tells her she’s loved and special, treasured and valued.

  7. You make her day when you kindly respond to her, especially when you go out of your way to give your last bit of energy just to let her know you’re there for her.

  8. When you’re proud of her, she thrives in doing anything possible to ensure that it stays that way.

  9. When you’re around, she feels safe.

  10. Your support makes her believe she can do anything as long as you’re there to cheer her on!

 So just in case you ever think that your presence in your daughter’s life is less than essential or even insignificant, please trust me when I say that this couldn’t be further from the truth.
 
I am thankful for each of you and the way you are literally changing the core of our culture from the ground up as you intentionally and consistently invest in your daughter’s hearts! 
 
To sum it up, I simply say, “thanks Dads.”


My Dad's Response to "Boys Will Be Boys" (Guest Blog by Hannah Ellenwood)

Michelle Watson

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Today I have invited my incredible friend, Hannah Ellenwood, to share this amazing story about how her dad’s influence powerfully shaped her life as a young girl...and how this one experience has stayed with her to this day. I know your heart will be touched, as was mine
~Michelle

A couple of weeks ago I was sitting on the couch with my roommate remembering back to my experiences growing up in the Czech Republic.
 
I remembered the feeling of being the only foreigner in my school, the only kid who came into first grade not knowing a word of Czech. The only kid who was a Christian. The kid who was immediately labeled as the “stuck up American,” who definitely wasn’t one of “them.”
 
Most of the time that didn’t bother me because my parents helped me understand what it meant to live and “stick out” for Christ. But this label was given to me because of my classmates’ perception of where I was from, not because it was true.
 
So, I found ways to adapt and fit in where it didn’t compromise my faith. I remember I would come home and ask my mom not to set out a new outfit for the next day because my Czech friends wore the same outfit to school three days in a row and I didn’t want to stick out in a new outfit each morning. I was okay with being different because I was a Christian, but culturally, all I wanted was to prove I could be one of them.
 
Me and my roommate’s conversation sparked a memory of my dad from 4th grade.
 
As I sat there sharing my experience with her, I realized how profound it was, how impactful in helping me know my worth as a woman.
 
But back then, it just felt like a threat to that “cultural sameness”.
 
In Czech culture it was perfectly normal for guys to touch girls whenever they had the urge to. They’d walk by me and my friends in the halls during recess and make a game of slapping our butts or trying to hang out in our locker rooms while we were changing after swim class. They’d call us really degrading names. And as we all grew up together, they would get more comfortable stepping further out of bounds.
 
I remember feeling really upset by this deep down, but my friends would laugh it off and tell me to let it happen and not make it a bigger deal than it was. My teachers would roll their eyes and wave me off saying: “Boys will be boys!”
 
One day, after I had repeatedly asked him to stop, a boy in school touched me inappropriately and made a disrespectful comment. I came home and told my dad what had happened and his first response was: “I’m fed up with this and this is not okay - I’m coming to talk to him tomorrow.”

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I was mortified. I felt valued and safe with my dad, but at the same time, he was threatening my “security” at school. No dad ever came in to school to deal with something like this - because it just “wasn’t a big deal.”
 
So, all I did to prove that I fit into this culture was about to be shattered.
 
All next day I sat in my desk while all of my classmates engaged in learning the seven cases of the Czech language and I waited for that knock on our classroom door. Terrified. But also ready for my dad to kick some BUTT! The knock came, my heart dropped into my stomach, and my dad opened the door.
 
The whole class turned to the door as my dad said: “Hi Mrs. Teacher,’ (that’s what you call them in Czech) ‘I’d like to speak to Viktor in the hall, please.” Viktor knew what this was about and there was momentary satisfaction of seeing him shake in his seat. She said: “Go right ahead!” I think she was fed up with Viktor too, but at wit’s end on how to get through to him.
 
My dad pulled him outside and told him if he EVER touched HIS daughter again, my dad would be back to deal with him.
 
Viktor came back in laughing, trying to save face and show the class that he wasn’t phased. But I saw something different in him. Fear and respect. While he did continue saying disrespectful things about me and my dad and my family, he never touched me again.
 
What I was terrified of came true. My classmates ridiculed me for taking things too seriously, making a big deal out of nothing, and called me all kinds of names that just felt yucky to hear as a nine-year-old.
 
But I stand here today, an almost twenty-seven-year-old woman, knowing my value and my worth. I’ve never questioned whether I should let that stuff happen or act like it’s not a big deal.
 
My dad’s vision was so much bigger than mine at the time.
 
Yes, it was okay to want to adapt culturally to the place I lived - but never at the cost of my worth or value. Just because something is true of a culture doesn’t mean it’s good or right.
 
Through his actions, not just his words, my dad showed me that no man has a right to my body because the people around me tolerate inappropriate touching or because he’s a guy and “boys will be boys.”
 
He taught me it’s worth sticking out, going against the cultural grain and bearing that ridicule. Because it’s not just about sticking out as an American in Czech culture. I stick out because of the Kingdom culture I am a part of and because the King who calls me by name calls me His daughter and sent His son to die on the cross because I am THAT valuable to Him.
 
I’m so thankful my dad could see and act beyond the embarrassment I felt in that moment and the months to follow because he knew my eternal value and believed it was worth protecting.
 
Because I was worth protecting.

Five Steps for Taking Away the MYSTERY of Father Your Daughter

Michelle Watson

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I often hear fathers tell me that their daughters are complicated and complex, confusing and unpredictable. I get that.


But believe it or not, I honestly believe that we girls are not as hard to understand as we may seem…once you figure out the simple tricks to gaining access to our hearts, that is!

My decoding strategy for you is coming to you straight from the one Man in all of history who always got it right when it came to relationships.  Of course you know who I’m talking about: Jesus. I figure there’s nothing better than learning from the best!

Here are five “easy” steps to decoding and relating to your daughter, especially during those times when things are emotionally intense (and may seem SPOOKY to you!).

(And if you don’t want to read further and just want a one-step plan, I would say to be gentle, soft, and calm.  And yes, those ARE manly words, I assure you, because only a strong man can accomplish this…it’s hard!).

Here goes:  There were two sisters, Martha and Mary, and they were close, personal friends of Jesus. He knew them and they knew him. For better or worse. 

Let’s pick up the story (from Luke 10:38-42 if you want to look it up later) where Martha is overly reactive, super stressed, and basically freaking out. 

If you can relate to experiencing any of those realities in your home, listen to what Jesus (with his male energy) did to enter the fray with his frazzled female friend. 

1.  He lets her vent to Him while He listens to all of it.
Even when she dramatically tells Jesus that he “doesn’t care” (false assumptions always take place during meltdowns) she continues by crying about having to do everything “by myself.” And if that wasn’t enough, she then barks at Jesus and demands that he tell her sister to help her. Surprisingly, he doesn’t lecture but listens and essentially absorbs her intensity by being her sounding board.

2.  He says her name twice….gently and lovingly.
There’s something calming when any of us hear our name.  And for us girls, it’s grounding for us to be spoken to by name. If you speak your daughter’s name with love in your tone and in a gentle way, she will usually come towards you----maybe not right away, but it is a powerful, healing strategy that works.

3.  He sits with her in her emotional reality.
Notice that he doesn’t try and talk her out of what she’s feeling or try to get her to think rationally. No lecture. No criticism.  Jesus knows that she couldn’t hear it anyway while being so worked up.  So he simply stays with her, looks at her, validates her, and puts words to what she’s feeling, calling it “worry” and “upset.”  He tenderly names her emotions. No judgment.

4.  He highlights all that is on her life plate.
As girls we are wired to multi-task.  That’s why we can talk on the phone, paint our nails, watch a show, and do homework…all at the same time!  Yet all of a sudden we reach our max and then comes the explosion.  Again, this is where we need gentle grace not power positions.  Jesus just told Martha that he knew she had “many things” going on, leading to her melt down.  How kind of him to notice.  If you validate all that is pressing in on your daughter, your words will go long and far to make her feel heard and understood.

5.  He directs her to focus on one thing.
Jesus tells her that “only one thing is needed.”  The implication is that it’s about focusing on Him as the one thing rather than all the needs around her.  When we girls get overwhelmed with the much, we need gentle, supportive guidance to take it one thing at a time.  Breaking it down into bite size pieces is immensely helpful when we’re breaking down.
Summing up: 

  • When your daughter is melting down, sit alongside her and listen to her vent, move towards her and lovingly say her name.

  • Tell her that you understand that she is “worried and upset.” 

  • Let her know you do see that she has a lot on her plate, and assist in helping her to focus on one thing. 

I know it’s easier said than done but these five things will make all the difference in the eye of the storm when you are there trying to keep up with her complexity.  And after the storm has passed, the main thing your daughter will remember is that you, Dad, were there in it with her.

Choose one thing from the list above right now and commit to putting it into action this week out of love for your daughter, which is the best way to turn this week into a “HalloWIN” celebration! 

A Note to a Dad from the Darkness (Guest Blog by Don Blackwell)

Michelle Watson

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My friend, Don Blackwell, shares a similar passion to mine in that he loves inspiring dads to intentionally engage with their daughters. Today I am honored to have him share this guest blog, a letter he’s written from the vantage point of a young woman who wants her dad to hear the deep longings of her heart.   
 
To set the stage for what you’re about to read, I want you to hear—in Don’s own words—
his motivation as a dad who seeks to champions other fathers with daughters. 
~Michelle


From Don:
“Michelle, thanks for sharing my post with your audience. I hope it will encourage dads to explore letter writing as a means of reaching their daughters’ hearts. I’m a BIG believer in letters, cards, and notes left in backpacks, on breakfast plates, under pillows, etc.  As important as heart-to-heart conversations are, spoken words too often dissipate in the air and lack staying power. Written words – of affirmation, apology, encouragement, etc. – are permanent. Daughters can keep them (most do) and keep referring back to them when they need them most.

 
I’ve had the privilege of listening to the hurting hearts of countless women – young and not-so-young – over the past decade. Many have been ravaged by eating disorders. All share one thing in common: Their desire to know that they are loved by their dad – unconditionally – and that he is proud of them. This letter was the result of a late night text message exchange with a incredible young woman who wasn’t sure of either.”
 
Dear Dad,

I’m not sure how I got to this very dark place.
And I’m even less sure how to navigate my way out of it.
I’m also not sure why I feel so worthless, like such a burden and so alone.

And I’m even less sure how to go about ridding myself of these feelings.
What I AM sure of, however, is how much I need you tonight.

I need a strong shoulder to cry on.

I need a voice I can trust to tell me everything’s going to be alright.

I need reassurance that the sun will come up tomorrow.

I need to be reminded that I’m good enough – “AS IS”.

I need a heart so filled with love that it has no space to be ashamed of me.

I need to know that, despite all that’s happened, I’m not a disappointment.

I need someone to check “under my grown up bed” and in the closet – the way you once did when I was a child and tell me it’s safe for me to go sleep.

I need to know I’m someone’s pride and joy – your pride and joy.

I need someone who will listen without judging me.

I need to know that I’m loved and that I matter.

I need you to show me the truth about me – again and again and again – until I can see it myself.

I need YOU, Dad.

I need you to hold hope for me.

I need you to light the way, to take my hand and walk with me out of this darkness.

I need to know I’m not alone in this fight.

~Your 22-Year-Old “Little Girl”

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Don Blackwell is the dad of two adult children, Ashley and Greg, and a trial attorney at Bowman and Brooke, LLP in Dallas, Texas.
He also is the author of “Dear Ashley . . .” – A Father’s Reflections and Letters to His Daughter on Life, Love, and Hope and an avid blogger.
Don can be found on Twitter and Instagram @donblackwell4.

How to Raise a World Changer

Michelle Watson

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I’ll let you in on a little secret: I want to be a world changer! 
 
Stated more specifically (and with a lot more words!): I want to leave a lasting legacy of equipping fathers with better tools to intentionally and consistently pursue their daughter’s hearts, resulting in a culture that is influenced by healthy women who love with passion and lead with strength.
 
With that goal in mind, you can imagine my piqued interest when I saw the cover of Time Magazine a few months ago where the entire periodical was dedicated to one primary theme: 

FIRSTS : WOMEN WHO ARE CHANGING THE WORLD

Donning the cover was a beautiful African-American woman by the name of Ava DuVernay who was noted to be the first black women to direct a film nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. Though I'd never heard of her, I was thrilled that she was being honored publicly as a significant female influencer. And under Ava’s picture, there was a list of numerous other women who were highlighted as firsts in their respective fields.

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These women ranged from military heroines to those with financial success to brilliant entrepreneurs to accomplished athletes to governmental officials and on it went. Among those noted as powerful change-makers were Oprah Winfrey, Aretha Franklin, Barbara Walters, Sheryl Sandberg, Selena Gomez, Serena Williams, Madeline Albright, and so many others.

As I opened each page in the magazine, I was inspired by courageous women who ranged in age from 16 to 87, all who didn’t let the glass ceiling hold them back. I was intrigued to read that many of these women credited those who sought to stop them in their pursuits as being motivators in their stories. (Now that’s the epitome of resilience!) And although some of them talked about struggling to find their place “in a man’s world,” it was incredible to hear how many of them were championed by men in their lives.
 
But beyond talking about the impact of supportive men in general, many of these world changers noted that she had a dad who played a huge role in her success. 

For some reason, that piece of information caught me by surprise. And even though I spend much of my time focusing on the dad-daughter relationship, I wasn’t expecting these high achievers and national icons to talk about their father’s influence. Yet I was beyond excited to read about powerful women whose dads celebrated them!
 
Here are three stories in that article that caught my attention and I believe you’ll enjoy them too:

Philanthropist Melinda Gates is the first woman to give away more than $40 billion and she said, “If your dad believes in you, that’s important to young girls because if your dad thinks you can be good at math and science, good at business, good at anything, it lifts your confidence and your self-esteem.”

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Loretta Lynch is the first black woman to become U.S. Attorney General and she recalls how her father, a Baptist minister, defied convention when he invited women to preach at his pulpit. Clearly this was not the norm back in the 60’s and 70’s.
Here is what she had to say about her dad: 
“My father was always fighting a fight for someone…I saw my father advocate for women to serve in leadership positions in his church. For him, talent could not go unrewarded. So from him I got the view that there were no limitations just because I was a girl…The aspirations and dreams he had for my brothers were the same ones he had for me.


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Singer Aretha Franklin was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and said, “The first songs I sang in church were ‘Jesus Be a Fence Around Me’ and ‘I Am Sealed.’ I was around 8 or 9. My dad asked me to sing that day. I didn’t want to sing in front of an audience. But he heard the possibilities and he continued to encourage me, and thank God he did.”


That is honestly one of the most powerful ways I’ve ever heard to frame the way that a father directly influences his daughter: Dad heard the possibilities and continued to encourage

Daughters need their dads to HEAR the possibilities they don’t HEAR.
And daughters need their dads to SEE the possibilities they don’t SEE.


In other words, we daughters need to borrow our dad’s wisdom and insight and belief in us until we are able to own it for ourselves.
 
Dad, if you want to raise a confident daughter who believes in herself and steps forward to change the world around her for good, be assured that you are part of that equation and your input really does matter in the big scheme of things
 
Here’s your challenge today: Look for something specific in your daughter that you can highlight and celebrate, something that makes her smile and light up, even if she’s not good at it yet. Especially if she’s not good at it yet. (She has to start somewhere, right?).
 
And when you help your daughter hear the possibilities she can’t yet hear and see the possibilities she can’t yet see, she’ll have what she needs to become a formidable young woman who believes that anything is possible because she’s got you in her cheering section!